Amid heightened security in Kathua and Pathankot, a special court in Pathankot has convicted six of the seven accused for the murder and rape of an eight-year-old Bakarwal girl in Kathua last year.
Three main convicts including the temple priest Sanjhi Ram and his nephew have been sentenced to life imprisonment. Three cops who have been convicted in the case have been each sentenced to five years in jail.
Son of Sanjhi Ram, Vishal, has been acquitted, owing to the lack of evidence. Reportedly, Vishal was appearing for an examination in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut district and had produced alibi for the same.
Those convicted include: former revenue officer and the key conspirator of the grotesque episode Sanjhi Ram, Special Police Officers Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Kumar, head constable Tilak Raj, sub-inspector Anand Dutta and Pravesh Kumar.
The six accused have been convicted under three sections of Ranbir Penal Code – Section 201 (disappearance of evidence), 376 (gang rape) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy).
Speaking to NewsClick, Advocate Mubeen Farooqui, who represented the victim’s family, expressed jubilation over the verdict. He said, “Satyameva Jayate! The truth has won. Today’s verdict has sent a strong message across that the truth shall win come what may.”
Farooqui confirmed to NewsClick that Sanjhi Ram, Deepak Khajuria, Parvesh Kumar – have been convicted under Sections 302 (murder) and 376-D (gang rape) of the Ranbir Penal Code. Surendra Verma, Tilak Raj and Anand Dutta have been convicted under Section 201 (pertaining to destruction of the evidence).
Meanwhile, family of the convict blamed the media for the verdict. The defence lawyer has sought to challenge the verdict in the court. Defence counsel in the Kathua rape and murder case, AK Sawhney, told News18, “Judgement is based on the perversity of evidence. Evidence was both insufficient and incredible." Sawhney had also asked for mitigation of the sentence of the six convicts for destroying the evidence, saying that “they have already spent one and a half years in jail”.
The prosecution team, comprising lawyers JK Chopra, S S Basra, Harminder Singh and Bhupinder Singh, has issued a brief statement: “We have sought capital punishment against all three accused convicted of murder and gang rape. It was hard work of all of us and a perfect blend of investigation and legal brains. We have achieved 99 per cent result.”
The in-camera trial, conducted on day-to-day basis following the SC directions, in the case that had caused uproar in the entire nation ended on June 3. The rape and murder of an eight-year-old Bakarwal girl last year saw Jammu region divided along the religious lines, with some Hindu right-wing groups like Hindu Ekta Manch coming out in support of the accused. Former BJP leader, ex-forest minister and now, the founder Dogra Swabhiman Sanghathan, was seen rallying with the accused under the banner of Hindu Ekta Manch.
Access NewsClick’s coverage of the Kathua case here.